Not too long ago I wrote an article on how to raise bilingual kids. While that article explains in details the “how-to” and where to find useful resources to begin the process, today I’ll be a little more specific. Today I want to share with your my favorite 6 Italian learning games that your kids will love.
If you don’t know me already, let me tell you that I’m the only Italian in my family. My husband is American and we live in the US so the responsibility to pass the Italian culture and language to our son is all on my shoulders.
So I did some research.
And I decided to follow a specific path and see how it goes. So far I have to say that it’s been great and, most importantly, a lot of fun.
But teaching a second language to a toddler can also be a lot of work if you don’t know where to start from or when it’s hard to find the right resources. When it was clear that here in the US it’s very hard to find good Italian options, I decided to invent some Italian learning games using some fun and colorful flashcards.
It went way over my expectations!!
Why play Italian learning games with the flashcards
For many reasons such as:
- not abusing of screen time (which can be a good language resource but not all the time, right?)
- more kid-adult interaction
- fun quality time together while learning a second language
- so many possible games that you never get bored
- easy to store (very handy when you don’t have a lot of space)
- and much more
These flashcards are easy to print and cut out and we have so much fun playing these games.
If you want them too, you can download them for free filling out the form at the end of this post!
The games that I’m going to share with you can be adjusted to any age over 1 year old and playing with the flashcard gives you space to improvise and use your imagination, which is like oxygen for young kids, right?
When I first wrote this article in Italian my son was 22 months old and was still throwing random words almost exclusively in English. Italian is definitely his second language so it was necessary to boost things up a little, but without too much pressure.
As of today that I’m translating this same article, my son is 2 years and 8 months old and I have to tell you that I couldn’t be happier of the results.
The little monster not only understands perfectly both languages, but even if he’s still more comfortable in speaking English first, he knows how to answer in Italian to his mama.
Honestly, with a busy working mama life, I don’t always have the time to play with him so we haven’t been using them consistently, but I can tell you for sure what I was able to observe in time:
- the little monster learns better and quicker with image-inputs rather than exclusively audio-inputs
- Some delay in speaking is totally normal in bilingual kids, so I wasn’t worried at all. But every time we played these Italian learning games using the flashcards he showed real improvements in no time. It was so clear to me that these games helped him so much in getting rid of the confusion between the too languages.
In addition, these Italian learning games with the flashcards are a great tool to keep the “little destroyer” entertained when the weather or other things force us to stay home.
You can easily add them to your indoor activities list.
Instructions on how to use the flashcards
Before diving into the amazing list of Italian learning games I have in store for you, let’s see how to use these flashcards at best, shall we? 🙂
There are several options, but all very easy.
I suggest to use as many variations as you can and to keep the file so that you can print them over and over again if necessary.
You’ll find three files very similar to each other yet with some differences:
- Alfabeto (alphabet)
- Alfabeto da completare (complete the alphabet)
- Alfabeto da indovinare (guess the alphabet)
You can chose how to use them best according your child’s age, but I suggest to print them all because they can also be used at the same time.
N.B.=These flashcards were created with stock images free from copyrights.
You can choose to NOT cut the flashcards out and instead laminate the sheets to use them as table mats while your child’s eating. It’s a great way to combine business with pleasure, right?
It’s a colorful and fun diversion that might also help you distract her while you try to stick the oh-so-hated cauliflower in her mouth 🙂 And keep the table cleaner which is also a good add-on.
The files are all in A4 size, but you can choose to print them on a larger scale if you like the idea of bigger table mats, or print 2 or 3 of them next to each other on one single laminated mat. It’s really up to you.
But I can promise you she’ll love it!
The other option (which doesn’t exclude the first one), is to print and cut out all the flashcards.
For some of the games I’m about to show you this will be necessary, but as I said, it’s your choice.
Once you download them you can print them on regular paper, on cardboard or even laminate them before cutting them out. You can also choose to glue them back to front in couples to make them thicker and have less around the house, or glue them to some cardboard.
Any of these solutions to make the card thicker is good. This in order to discourage your kid to chew on them and destroy them every other day since normal paper wouldn’t last long.
At this point you can store them all together or separated them by type, but you’re almost ready to start playing these amazing Italian learning games.
Just a small side note
There are many Italian learning games that you can do with small children, but I strongly suggest to use the list I’m about to give you with kids from 12 months and older.
The reason is very simple: before 12 months of age (besides some exceptions), the language comprehension is limited to few inputs such as “yes”, “no”, “mama”, “daddy”, etc.
In short, basic stuff, right?
There’s plenty of communication, but it’s less verbal and more “emotional” o behavioral.
Also, when they’re still babies, we need to be careful to not overstimulate them.
So it’s my duty to suggest that these Italian learning games need to be adjusted to your kid’s age, skills and interest. Forcing kids can result in the opposite effect, just like any other activity.
This being said…
Let’s finally see what these Italian learning games are all about, shall we? 😉
6 Italian learning games for kids with flashcards (age 1+ year)
- Point the image and repeat the name out loud. When kids are very young, the first inputs need to come from you. If you’re already using other kind of resources such as illustrated fairy tales or cartoons, the process will speed up. But they first need to hear them somewhere before learning how to recognize them, right? After repeating and enunciating the name a few times, ask her to try and say it, but always without any kind of pressure. Remember, it’s a game. Leave her also the time to observe the pictures and make her own mental associations and deductions.
- Point the image and guess the name. When she’ll start memorizing the names, just point out one of the pictures and ask “what is this?”. Let her take all the time she needs to dig into her memory and try to say it. If she clearly doesn’t know, move to another image. If instead she gets it right, always remember to reward her as positive reinforcement. Lots of “great job!” and “give me a 5” will make her more excited about her progress.
- “Where is…?”. This is my son’s favorite!! In this case you’ll be the one calling out loud a name and asking where it is and she’ll have to point it out. Example: “where is the tree?”. In the table-mat format this game is easier, but if you want to add some challenge, spread the flashcard in a defined area (on the carpet for instance) and name the card that she’ll have to find and fetch for you. When she’s done collecting them all, it’s ice-cream time! (or whatever you prefer).
- Memory. Now, who didn’t love the memory game when they were little? So we’re going to add it to our Italian learning games 🙂 You can use 2 identical sets of flashcards: one to give the input and the other spread on the floor/table. Show the card and let her know her job is to find the equivalent. Looks like it has nothing to do with language learning, right? Wrong! 😉 Here are the variation for the purpose: after seeing the input-card, she’ll have to say the name out loud and then find the equivalent. Then you can also make it more and more challenging and put the cards on the floor face-down, so that she’ll have to remember the name AND where it’s hidden.
- Call the alphabet letter. As she grows older, you can start teaching her that each image is associated with an alphabet letter. This way she’ll start to understand that “albero” (tree) starts with A and so on. Another fun game is to call the letter and she’ll have to say the name associated to that letter. You can also use all the variations of the previous games and extend the game to words that are not included in the cards but that you know she already knows. For example you can call the letter M, and she can say “mano” (hand) and then point her finger on the right picture. Then you can ask “what other words start with M?” and if she doesn’t say “mama” you can either cry or take her off your last will. Your choice 😉 (jk obviously!!)
- Write the name. This is clearly for grown up kids who are starting to learn how to write (hopefully not on your just painted walls). The third file option is a “Complete the alphabet” version where there’s only the initial letter and she’ll have to write the rest of the word associated with the image. Remember to show her first how to write it correctly and to correct her mistakes, but always with positive reinforcements for each attempt. The laminate option comes very handy here, since you can write and erase with a marker as many times as you want.
In time you can create countless variations, such as the “speed factor” for instance. This way you’ll add more fun and challenge. For example she’ll have to find the card or say the name before you count to 5, or before her brother or friend does. Some healthy competition that will add lots of fun.
These Italian learning games seem too simple to be effective, right?
But I promise you, once you’ll start playing you’ll see what amazing response you’ll get from your child.
Besides, you can use the same logic with every language.
Final consideration and notes
In order to take complete advantage of these Italian learning games or any language game, it’s necessary to keep in mind a couple of things:
- Always remember that you’re playing, which means that fun must be the foundation. It must not sound or look as a boring lesson. Instead, it needs to incentive their natural curiosity. If you want to establish a routine (let’s say 30 minutes a day or 1 hour a week, etc), I’m a huge fan of it, but it needs to be done in a way where they’ll anticipate the moment with joy. If they perceive it as “the boring Italian lesson”, there’s something wrong.
- Besides, she’ll most definitely come and ask you in first place. No need to force it at all. This is why I also suggest to use them as table-mats, so that she’ll see it every day and will be naturally attracted by the colorful images. When she’ll start pointing at the picture looking at you with a question-mark-face, you’ll know she’s ready for the games.
- If a specific game seems too frustrating, make it simpler. If it’s boring make it fun adding some challenge or funny faces/sounds. Ultimately, observe her reactions and free your imagination.
- Even if she makes a lot of mistakes, always reward the attempts and encourage her to try again maybe giving some clues. Also remember after every mistake to show her the right answer.
Believe me, it’s incredible how such a simple tool can be used in so many different way!!
That’s why I decided to share them with you and I’ll keep creating more and make them available for you. But not after trying them out with my little guinea pig first 😉
Let me know what kind of cards you’d like and I’ll make them in a heartbeat.
Download FOR FREE the Italian Flashcards filling out the form below
And have lots of fun!!!! 🙂
P.S.= if you liked this article, don’t forget to share it! 😉